Althouse | category: gender politics



a blog by Ann Althouse

Nancy Pelosi uses sexist analogy to describe her withdrawal from power: "I have no intention of being the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying, 'My son doesn’t like this thing this way.'"

That's quoted in "Pelosi Steps Aside, Signaling End to Historic Run as Top House Democrat/'For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. She has led her party in the House for two decades" (NYT).

That was completely gratuitous — dragging in the stock character, the mother-in-law. We're supposed to know the stereotype and to loathe that sort of woman.

The NYT can't get halfway through the headline without bonking us over the head with Pelosi's womanhood. She was "historic," we're supposed to know, and it's for one reason, the reason we've been told over and over again. 

I guess that makes her the right kind of woman, the woman who achieves in the traditionally male sphere. And good for her. But she turns around and takes a shot at women who do continue in the traditional sphere, the mothers. You know mothers. They can't control themselves and insist on interfering in their adult children's life. 

Did Pelosi feel compelled to stereotype herself? As she sheds the leadership role and thinks about how she will behave in the future, did she naturally think of herself in stereotypical terms. Instead of comparing herself to other leaders who have continued in power but in a lesser role, she instinctively reverted to portraying herself as a traditional woman — a mother who has moved from authority figure in the nuclear family to a lesser onlooker as her son forms his own new family.

"But in recent weeks we’ve been treated to a boomlet of pieces suggesting that maybe women aren’t really all that angry about Dobbs after all."

"In this telling, women just kind of burned hot for a few weeks, until they came to realize that they cared about gas prices and milk prices more than they cared about reproductive justice. Central to this story was the narrative that Democrats face-planted in every possible way by focusing on abortion as the only election issue. Indeed, this mistake is supposedly so catastrophic that they are poised to be walloped in the midterms for it.... Just as there was no place for Alito to park reproductive freedom in the Constitution, so too, there is nowhere to park it in larger electoral politics. Abortion, pregnancy, and birth control: These issues will directly affect at least half the electorate, yet even now they remain hopelessly niche.... As far back as the time stamp on Alito’s shallow dive into history allows, women were being told that their interests were secondary, were a distraction, and were subsumed under bigger more important interests that are in the care of men.... If you accept the framing that women’s rights will always be lesser, you are pretty much signing up to guarantee that women’s rights will always be lesser in the future."

Writes Dahlia Lithwick in "Don’t Bail on Abortion/Women have been asked to stop prioritizing this problem for centuries" (Slate).

ADDED: What happened to the reports of individual women and girls impregnated by rape or pregnant and facing serious health problems? Was a decision made not to pursue this form of persuasion? It seemed to be presumed, right after Dobbs, that these stories would be powerful, but then they were gone. Why?

Independent women now favor the Republicans by 18 percentage points, when last month they favored Democrats by 14 points.

That's a 32-point turnaround. How the hell could that happen?!

That's from the new Times/Siena poll, discussed in the NYT article "Republicans Gain Edge as Voters Worry About Economy, Times/Siena Poll Finds/With elections next month, independents, especially women, are swinging to the G.O.P. despite Democrats’ focus on abortion rights. Disapproval of President Biden seems to be hurting his party." 

The NYT says that's "a striking swing given... how intensely Democrats have focused on that group and on the threat Republicans pose to abortion rights."

Obviously, one explanation is that the polls are massaged and the direction of the massage changes as we get closer to the election. That would mean the earlier poll was more about shaping opinion, and the new poll, so close to the election, needs to approximate what will actually happen in the election, so the pollsters won't lose credibility. We've all heard that explanation.

But a 32-point turnaround in one month — that's so huge!

Is it that "disapproval of President Biden" is "hurting his party"? Or is it that the stress on abortion rights isn't hitting independent women the way Democrats think it would?

When you look at independents as a whole — men and women — they favor Republicans by 10 percentage points, up from 3 last month, a 7 percentage point difference. What's going on with independent women? I myself am an independent woman, but I don't feel that I exemplify my group. In case I do, I'll just say that I feel distanced from all major-party politicians.

And, for the record, I hate abortion but support abortion rights. That is, I've supported abortion rights, as protected by the courts, but I expected the moderate politicians to propose legislation that would protect access to abortion, up to a certain point, which we would openly discuss, perhaps coming up with a reasonable time limit — subject to some exceptions — perhaps 15 weeks. I wanted to see a chart showing the development of the embryo/fetus week by week and polls asking what people think is the right line between letting the woman control her own body and protecting the unborn.

But that's not what we've seen. We've got Democrats resisting setting any limit. Instead of saying let's restore access to the point of viability — the Roe line — they're resisting setting any line. I say "they" but I'm not listening all the time to all of them. I did watch the Wisconsin gubernatorial debate in which the Republican Tim Michels accused the Democrat Tony Evers of supporting access to abortion up to the point of birth, and Tony Evers never corrected him — not right after the accusation was made and not later when the moderator asked each candidate to correct anything that has been said about him that's wrong. 

So I've got to consider the possibility that the giant 32-point shift in opinion is not in spite of the Democrats' support for abortion rights but in part because of it.

But maybe it's in spite of the abortion issues. Economic matters dominate, and people may want change. But why are women — in the independent group — changing so much more than men?

"We tell each other on the scene where and when we would gather next time. But mostly you know where people would gather..."

"... and you do not need to arrange anything.... We will continue until they kill every single one of us.... They fired teargas directly at us the other night, my eyes were burning, I could not sleep all night, but still I went out the next night, with my tears and pain in my eyes." 

Said one woman named Nasheen, quoted in "'Women are in charge. They are leading': Iran protests continue despite crackdowns/People, determined to defy violence by security forces and online blackout, are resorting to old-fashioned methods to organise unrest" (The Guardian).

Also, from a woman named Negar: "Much of the time the men are just watching. Women organise and do everything. It’s completely different from previous times. Women are in charge. They are leading."

ADDED: Those 2 quotes seem to present a paradox — leaderless leading. Here's something in The New Yorker, "How Iran’s Hijab Protest Movement Became So Powerful," quoting the Iranian scholar Fatemeh Shams: 

Today’s revolution is completely leaderless in the sense that none of the previous figures... are being called upon. People in the streets are not waiting for anyone to come and take the lead. They are the leaders of the revolution....

It has made it very difficult for the security forces and for the government to actually suppress this movement.... [T]hey can’t really go after a particular figure. They tried. They had mass arrests in the past few days of journalists, and of people who they thought could potentially be leaders. They did that, but the protests haven’t been shut down. They couldn’t shut it down. In fact, it has become more widespread. 

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human-rights lawyer who has represented many of these women who, over the past ten years, have been sentenced to jail or summoned to court on the basis of not observing the compulsory hijab. She recently said this movement is leaderless and is only led by those women who are doing this one revolutionary act. And that revolutionary act is not carrying a weapon. They’re not armed. This is completely peaceful. 

And the only thing that they’re doing is they’re harmlessly taking something off of their head and they’re walking in the streets of Iran. The figure of this revolution is the body of these women, these unveiled women who are walking in the streets without harming anyone. Without even chanting “death to the dictator” or saying anything harmful against anyone. Their bodies have become the revolutionary figure of this movement....

"In reality, feminist science offers a powerful set of tools for examining the history, context, and power structures in which scientific questions are asked."

"By bringing marginalized perspectives to the table, it can generate new questions and methodologies that help scientists identify and correct for hidden bias. Think of it as a stake strapped to a growing tree: it provides scaffolding to help the tree get back on track when it starts to lean too far to one side.... In 2012, [evolutionary biologist Patricia] Gowaty performed a series of careful replication experiments with fruit flies that challenged the longstanding 'Bateman’s Principle' of sexual selection. Her findings helped show that this principle, which states that males tend to be more promiscuous than females due to the asymmetry between sperm and eggs, was more of a hypothesis — and a flawed one at that."

Yet outside of gender studies departments, Gowaty’s work isn’t widely taught. Meanwhile, in hallowed halls like Oxford, Bateman’s Principle is still canon. Part of the reason, writes author Lucy Cooke in her recent book 'Bitch: On The Female of the Species,' is that Gowaty was effectively branded as an ideologically-driven feminist.... 
Even scientists I interviewed for my book... for instance, the urologist mapping the human clitoris to reveal an 'iceberg organ' or the bioengineer convincing her field that the uterus is a uniquely regenerative organ — balked at the idea of calling their work feminist.... 
What we lose when feminism is minimized is an understanding of how science actually works. Striking out the word 'feminist' perpetuates the outdated idea that scientists should (and can) be objective — that when they enter the lab, they somehow strip off the values, quirks, and preconceptions that plague the rest of us mortals. In reality, the language of objectivity has long served as a cloak for political ends, whether it’s race science being used to support eugenic policies, or pro-life lawyers marshalling studies to allegedly prove that life starts at conception.
ADDED: Here's a report on the Gowaty study, "Biologists reveal potential 'fatal flaw' in iconic sexual selection study" (Science Daily):
"Our team repeated Bateman's experiment and found that what some accepted as bedrock may actually be quicksand. It is possible that Bateman's paper should never have been published." ...
The original experiment on Drosophila melanogaster, also known as the common fruit fly, was performed by creating multiple, isolated populations with either five males and five females or three of each gender in a jar. The insects mated freely in the experimental populations, and Bateman examined the children that made it to adulthood. 
To count the number of adult offspring engendered by each of his original insect subjects, Bateman needed a reliable way to match parents with children. Nowadays, modern geneticists would use molecular evidence to determine the genetic parentage of each child, but DNA analysis was not available in the 1940s. Instead, Bateman chose his initial specimens carefully, selecting D. melanogaster flies that each had a unique, visible mutation that could be transferred from parent to child, Gowaty said. 
The mutations were extreme. Some of the flies had curly wings, others thick bristles, and still others had eyes reduced in size to narrow slits. The outward differences in each breeding subject allowed Bateman to work backward to determine the parentage of some of the fly progeny and to document each mating pair among the original insects. A child with curly wings and thick bristles, for example, could only have come from one possible pairing. 
Yet Bateman's method, which was cutting-edge for its time, had a "fatal flaw," according to Gowaty. Imagine the child of a curly-winged mother and an eyeless father. The child has an equal chance of having both mutations, only the father's mutation, only the mother's mutation or no mutation at all. In order to know who mated with whom, Bateman used only the children with two mutations, because these were the only ones for which he could specifically identify both the mother and father. But by counting only the children with two mutations, Bateman probably got a skewed sample, Gowaty said. 
In repeating Bateman's experiment, she and her colleagues found that the flies with two severe mutations are less likely to survive into adulthood. Flies use their wings not only to hover but also to sing during courtship, which is why curly wings present a huge disadvantage. Specimens with deformed eyes might have an even tougher time surviving. The 25 percent of children born with both mutations were even more likely to die before being counted by Bateman or Gowaty. 
"It's not surprising that the kids died like flies when they got one dramatic mutation from mom and another dramatic mutation from dad," she said. Gowaty found that the fraction of double-mutant offspring was significantly below the expected 25 percent, which means Bateman would have been unable to accurately quantify the number of mates for each adult subject. 
Further, his methodology resulted in more offspring being assigned to fathers than mothers, something that is impossible when each child must have both a father and a mother, Gowaty said. Bateman concluded that male fruit flies produce many more viable offspring when they have multiple mates but that females produce the same number of adult children whether they have one mate or many. But Gowaty and her colleagues, by performing the same experiment, found that the data were decidedly inconclusive. In their repetition -- and possibly in Bateman's original study -- the data failed to match a fundamental assumption of genetic parentage assignments. 
Specifically, the markers used to identify individual subjects were influencing the parameters being measured (the number of mates and the number of offspring). When offspring die from inherited marker mutations, the results become biased, indicating that the method is unable to reliably address the relationship between the number of mates and the number of offspring, said Gowaty. 
Nonetheless, Bateman's figures are featured in numerous biology textbooks, and the paper has been cited in nearly 2,000 other scientific studies. "Here was a classic paper that has been read by legions of graduate students, any one of whom is competent enough to see this error," Gowaty said. "Bateman's results were believed so wholeheartedly that the paper characterized what is and isn't worth investigating in the biology of female behavior." 
Repeating key studies is a tenet of science, which is why Bateman's methodology should have been retried as soon as it became important in the 1970s, she said. Those who blindly accept that females are choosy while males are promiscuous might be missing a big piece of the puzzle. 
"Our worldviews constrain our imaginations," Gowaty said. "For some people, Bateman's result was so comforting that it wasn't worth challenging. I think people just accepted it."... 

AND: I'm not convinced that it's a good idea to embrace the term "feminist science." I think Gross's point is that scientists — like everyone else — are vulnerable to confirmation bias, and sometimes the bias is anti-feminist. The correction isn't to adopt a feminist bias, just to become clear-sighted and neutral about detecting bias in either direction. Feminism may drive your enthusiasm to see masculinist bias. You can't duplicate every experiment, and you choose Bateman because you're aggravated and skeptical about this males-love-to-fuck ingredient in the scientific analysis. But in the end, you've got to do your own study properly.

PLUS: Can we talk about the analogy — "a stake strapped to a growing tree... provides scaffolding to help the tree get back on track when it starts to lean too far to one side."

First, scaffolding is the wrong word. Scaffolding doesn't straighten things out. It's a structure used for workers as they build or repair a structure. There are no workers using the tree stakes to do things to the tree.

Second, it's usually detrimental to the growth of a tree to stake it. If you want to use staking a tree as your analogy, you should know more about the things gardeners consider when deciding whether to stake a tree:

Staking a tree that does not need it can do more harm than good. Movement of the trunk helps strengthen it by thickening it and giving it taper from bottom to top. Trunk movement also stimulates root growth... Movement of a tree above where it is tied too tightly to a stake, like movement of an unstaked trunk, results in a thicker trunk above the tie. This difference in thickness upsets smooth travel of water and nutrients up and down the developing trunk....

Your opponents will use your analogies against you, even when it has little to do with the argument you're making. If scientists have been biased — leaning (like a tree?) — then we ought to tie them to a rigid structure pointing in the direction that you believe is straight?  

"We are now policing traditional gender boundaries, and stripping achievements from women, in the name of gender-blindness. The gender-woke movement is eating its own tail."

Says the top-rated comment at "At Shakespeare’s Globe, a Nonbinary Joan of Arc Causes a Stir/Even before the production debuted, it had inflamed a rancorous debate about sex and gender that plays out almost daily in Britain" (NYT). 

From the article:
[The playwright Charlie] Josephine said the decision to make Joan nonbinary came after studying Joan’s life and realizing that Joan of Arc had been willing to die at the stake rather than stop wearing men’s clothing. This was “not a casual fashion statement,” Josephine said. “It was a deep need for them.” Josephine wanted to depict what it would have been like for “a young person in a female body, who is questioning gender in a very different society than what we live in now,” they said. “My younger self really needed a protagonist like this,” they added.... 

A quote from  the Globe’s artistic director: “Everyone’s got an idea of how plays should be done and how historical figures should be treated. All 'I, Joan' was doing, [said], was asking, 'Who is Joan for now?'"

Do the play-makers care about Joan's identity — to herself — or are they appropriating her interest in her own identity for their purposes? I see an inherent contradiction. 

Anyway, this issue has been around for quite a while. There's a long Wikipedia article, "Cross-dressing, gender identity, and sexuality of Joan of Arc." It cites scholarship from the 1990s. Excerpt:

The "holy transvestite" – i.e., transvestite female saint – was a common medieval archetype, and one of the grounds used to defend Joan's attire. Saint Marina followed the classic story: fearing for her virginity on her wedding night, she cut off her hair, donned male attire, and joined a monastery, passing herself off as "Father Marinos"....

The Condemnation trial found Joan's transvestism condemning....
The rehabilitation trial focused strongly on the transvestism charge.... As the trial noted, she wore "long, conjoined hosen, attached to the aforesaid doublet with twenty cords (aiguillettes)" and "tight leggings", with the cords being used to securely tie the parts of the garment together so her clothing couldn't be pulled off by her English guards. Guillaume Manchon testified, "And she was then dressed in male clothing, and was complaining that she could not give it up, fearing lest in the night her guards would inflict some act of [sexual] outrage upon her"....

One of the first modern writers to raise issues of gender identity and sexuality was novelist Vita Sackville-West. In "Saint Joan of Arc", published in 1936, she indirectly suggests that Joan of Arc may have been a lesbian due to sharing a bed with little girls and women.....
[Writing in 1996, Susan] Crane backs up the distinction between Joan and the holy transvestites, in that Joan lays claim to her virginity and her womanhood instead of burying it, identifying herself not with the traditional religious crossdressers – as Bynum notes, "as brides, as pregnant virgins, as housewives, as mothers of God"—but as a fighter. "Her continued engagement in secular affairs and her noninstrumental, secular cross-dressing queer her virginity – that is, they move her virginity beyond its canonical meanings in ways that suggest a revision of heterosexual identity."

In her book, Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman [1996], transgender author Leslie Feinberg popularized the notion of Joan of Arc being transgender. Under the heading They Called Her 'Hommasse', Feinberg cites Evans and Murray on the "enormous importance" of Joan's male costume to her identity, and states, "Joan of Arc suffered the excruciating pain of being burned alive rather than renounce her identity ... What an inspirational role model – a brilliant transgender peasant teenager leading an army of laborers into battle." 

In Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, transgender biologist Joan Roughgarden cites and agrees with Feinberg's assessment, describing Joan as a "male-identified trans person"... 

"I would never, ever say that I regret supporting the first Black woman vice president, ever. But the disappointment is real."

"I was obsessed with the idea of this person who could undo the systemic, the systematic racism and sexism and heterosexism in government with one fell swoop, and now I’m thinking to myself, did I just make up a person in my head who could do those things?"

Said "one self-described former member of the #KHive, who requested to speak anonymously so as not to alienate themselves from friends made through the movement," quoted in "The KHive Retreats as Kamala Harris’ Popularity Vanishes/As Kamala Harris’ popularity has waned, so too has her support among her most rabid and online followers" (Daily Beast).

None of the #KHive members who spoke with The Daily Beast pointed to any policy disagreements between members that have led to major fractures....

Fractures. Maybe fissures will emerge.

But some admitted they got caught up in the stan-ification of politics that became widespread in the extremely online political circles of the 2020 Democratic primaries....

Wouldn't it be great if everyone realized they were sick of the hysteria and puffery and wanted to look things squarely in the face and see reality? 

Josh Hawley "is positioning himself, and therefore his movement — his far-right, White-guy movement — as, 'If you’re a man, then you believe in these things.'"

Said Jason Kander," an Afghanistan War veteran who in 2018 stepped away from rising success in the Democratic Party to tend to his mental health," quoted "Josh Hawley’s problem with masculinity" (WaPo).

The column is by Jonathan Capehart, who continues:
These things, you could probably guess, are archconservative values such as the patriarchy, opposition to women’s bodily autonomy, support exclusively for heterosexual marriage, an aversion to labor organizing. In other words, as Kander told me via email later, Hawley is “making manhood synonymous with conservatism.” 
The pitch holds natural appeal for older White men who already hew to traditional morals. But what about the younger White men who, as Kander says, watch Ultimate Fighting but still like their LGBTQ co-workers and have friends who have had abortions? Hawley figures he can woo them too, so long as they share one potent trait with the older group: racial resentment. 
This vision of masculinity is as much about being White as it is about being a man.... 
Hawley may be a clown, but he’s clever, too. He knows White men feel they’re facing a crisis, and he plans to give them an answer....

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?